Thursday, December 29, 2011

Call me Curmudgeon

In my end of year gear post I made mention to me waffling back and forth between upgrading to a carbon fork or getting hydro brakes.  I was having a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do for next year.  Each option had their pros and cons and I would randomly talk myself both in and out of each decision quite frequently for awhile.

I thought I had figured it out at the time of that post and hydro brakes it was.  Then Bully told me to man up and get the carbon fork and for a bit I was waffling again.  Then today I realized that I wasn't actually waffling between two choices, I was at odds with both choices independently at the same time...get it?

I have always been somewhat of a no-nonsense racer/rider.  Always err on the side of simplicity and durability.  I think that is why I took to SS so readily.  Investing large sums of money to drop weight and increase maintenance has never really jive'd with me.  I would much rather have a solid fork that works just fine and I know can take a beating and brakes that work just fine and I can fully service myself quickly and cheaply.   I don't want to worry about applying the correct torque to a carbon steer tube and have to bleed possibly corrosive DOT brake fluid if my brakes go least not right now.  I've upgraded to a tubeless config for this year, that is going to be my tech advancement for this season.  I am going to master the crap out of that so that I can fully and easily maintain it from my shop.  We'll see what that does for me this coming year and if I get fast enough maybe then my curmudgeoness will fade and I will demand the finest and most expensive tech.

In the mean time I put my BB7s back on, mounted the rotors on the new wheels, cabled everything up (quickly and easily) and threw the new grips on.

As is it comes in at about 22lbs even (just using a little home scale with me shouldering the bike).  Not the most accurate measure but probably a good estimate on reality.  It will be rideable with pedals, a chain, cog and cassette spacers which at most will add another pound or so.  Not too shabby and as is I am about $400 richer without one of those upgrades on the horizon.  That means plenty more funds for actual race fees, or gas or nutrition.  So maybe I won't be going quite as fast as I could but I'll be able to easily afford to go slow way more often.  Besides this is just more motivation to work harder...didn't end up spending the money to drop an extra 1000g?  Better HTFU.

Black IPA...India Black Ale...Cascadian Dark

To date I had been calling my next homebrew endeavor a Black IPA but as I have done some of my due diligence to familiarize myself with the style I have found that there is still some contention in the upper echelons of the Brew World as to appropriate naming and characteristics.

I had heard lots of chatter lately about this somewhat newer style that was making the rounds and I was intrigued.  Seemed like a interesting mix of styles that I like.  Turns out this is still pretty cutting edge as far as brewing goes and the community appears to still be 'hashing this one out'.  Only analogy I can think of that more people might understand is dog breeds and the folks at Westminster.  Just about everyone knows that there are 'x' official dog breeds as far as the governing body is concerned and every other dog is just a 'mutt'.  Beer is kind of the same way.  People mix and match styles all the time but every now again some sort mix differentiates itself for whatever reason and those characteristics are deemed desirable enough to want to repeat and over time new breeds or brews are declared 'official'.  Its in that declaration that things get tricky.

Who mixed it/bred it first? What exactly should it be called? Should it be named by the founder or original brewer/breeder or by the governing body?  Who the hell governs beer?  Who really cares about any of this?

From what I can tell there is one camp who says a style that pretty much matches with this type of beer has been being brewed up in the Pacific Northwest for some time now which those folks have been calling a Cascadian Dark Ale.  Some people have gone with the simple Black IPA because most of the style adheres to IPA qualities with the main difference being that it is black and not pale.  Problem is the P in IPA stands for Pale.  So that obviously leads us to removing that P for Pale and inserting a B for Black...India Black Ale.  Seems the most logical thing to do to me.  And don't get me started on the folks who think all this hoo-haa is really just an Imperial Stout in a fancy dress.  So call it what you will...a rose by any other name right?  Bill Shakespeare knew what was up.

6oz of 4 different types of hops: Cascade, Summit, Centennial & Chinook

I can't wait to go through this whole tirade every time someone asks me what I'm brewing currently or when they ask me what they are drinking.  Maybe I'll just whip up some business cards with a QR Code that links to this post.  What do you think Shaun, does that jive with your inbound sensibilities?  Maybe yes, maybe no but I can guarantee it will be inbound to your stomach come Spring time.  Sneak some up to Cannon and toast one on the deck in early April?  See you there.

Monday, December 26, 2011

End of Year Gear Extravaganza

Christmas has come and gone and now its time to look ahead to 2012 full force and mess with all my new gear of course!

I've got a full week of 'forced vacation' to mess with new toys, brew some beer, ponder upgrade choices, finally get some time on the slopes, etc., etc.

My race bike has begun to take its new form for next year, the bike shop has moved into the basement this year on account of I hate working on bikes in a 20 degree shed.  FYI metal gets real cold when it sits out in the cold.  I got a few new bits for xmas this year to get me rolling.  I bought myself some new wheels before the holidays, my Dad got me a new crank/bb, and Gina got me a new stem and grips.

Wheels are Stan's ZTR Crests, running tubeless with some Maxxis Ignitors on there right now, I stuck with the 180mm Stylo cranks and a new Stylo Race stem.  Not sure what makes a stem 'Race' but I'm sure I'll be faster now.  I had contemplated hard about going to a full carbon fork but lately I have been waffling on that a lot.  The fork I wanted was pretty expensive and I'm having a hard time mentally qualifying spending that much money in essence to just drop some weight and maybe increase some chatter absorption.  I think dropping the weight in my wheels as well as running tubeless now with be enough of an improvement in that realm and I feel like spending some of the money I was saving for the fork on a nice set of hydro brakes might be a better investment.  That way I improve the bikes weight and ride feel as well as its stopping power.  Now I just need to figure out which brakes I am going to go with...

I am really liking the bikes weight right now and most of the stuff I need to add isn't very substantial weight wise: cog, chain, pedals, brakes, grips thats it.

I also scored all kinds of GoPro accessories.  Very much looking forward to doing a bunch more filming this winter.  I got the vented helmet mount for another angle while biking, a grab bag full of various mounts to mix and match and some of the moisture absorbing strips to try and combat those issues I had while filming the Mighty Chicken vid

I'm also running a fairly hilarious inventory of Cytomax now as well as Clif Bloks and Stinger waffles.  Or more appropriately murder juice, murder bloks and murder waffles.

As for beer, its been a long time coming but this week I will finally be getting my next batch going.  A Black IPA with a full 6oz of hops!  YeeHaaaaa, can't wait to drink some of that after a sweet day of spring skiing in a few months.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cold Crank Challenge 2011

A 29er! A 29er! My kingdom for a 29er!

Well the Y has been nothing but fun since I built it but today it met its match, at least with me riding it.  We were a match made in hell today for sure.  I think I may be able to take my work today and apply for a minor in Physics at PSU with all of the lessons I learned trying to pick 29er lines through the craggy stuff.  I can totally ride that line! **explosion**.  I guess from here on out if I want to go fast I need big hoops and no squish.

Luckily I at least got my layering right and surprisingly I was actually pretty comfortable during the race.  A few short moments where I felt like I was overheating and a few short moments when I was cold, other than that comfortable.  Can't ask for much better temp management than that trying to do hard cardio work outside on Dec 10th.

I rode the first half lap at the pace of / and choosing lines like I was racing my Redline.  And I must have looked like a complete spaz.  A local rider, Dave, told me I looked 'a little out of sorts'.  Thanks for being nice Dave but lets be honest I'm sure I was way closer to jack-ass than out of sorts.  I probably fell or dabbed about 126 times and finally decided this whole racing thing wasn't working out for me on this day and I slowed things up in an effort to not do something stupid and ruin my ski season.  BUT I did make sure to air out a little drop every lap where they had a photog set up.  I really hope I get to see some of those pics.  I hit it 4 times so at least one of them has to be awesome.  This whole thing was worth it if I can get a sweet pic of me tail-whipping a Y-frame. Ok fine there was no tail whipping but its still gonna be gnar (I hope).

 it WAS all worth it!

The fast guys just started lapping me as I was finishing off what I decided was my last lap (I did 4, top guys got 5).  Andy Gould came by and asked me if I was racing in the Duo Team division.  Which is a different way of saying "Why are you going so slow?".  But I will choose to interpret it as "Oh hey Kevin, I'm surprised to see you so far back in the field because usually you are pretty fast."

It's probably just as well that things weren't working out because the Y was starting to take a beating.  I cleaned it off when I got home but didn't have the gusto to really get in there to check everything out but I'm fairly certain the rear shock may have cashed in its chips, I believe both hubs are loose and probably need rebuilds, brakes were definitely all screwed up.  Oh well, it isn't likely I would be getting much more mileage this season anyway.  I'm hoping to be on snow exclusively any week now.

The race itself went off great.  Good turn out for Dec with about 50 riders in attendance.  Course was challenging for sure.  I didn't stick around for results or awards because of my lack luster showing but NEMBA Racing had a pretty good day with Shawn and Carl both in the top 10 (I think).  Lis mentioned this was over double the turn out from last year.  Good to see that MTB racing in NE is back in a big way, even in December.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey Burner 2011

The last few years the typical Burner has been about 38 degrees with a nice steady rain with maybe an inch of snow on the ground mixed in nicely with some mud.

This year was not the typical Burner

Gina had to be up pretty early for the Humane Society adopt-a-thon so I got an early start on Black Friday but for completely different reasons than all those other tools.  I took the scenic Sanbornton route to avoid Tilton and got on my way down to Auburn, with a short detour through Heaven...

don't go towards the light!

Lots of the usual suspects in play: Bully, Carl, Alby, Andy Gould (our local/guide), Marty Allen and a few other young guns went out for our own little loop courtesy of some of Andy's local knowledge.  Great stuff and much better than the double track cruise along the lake.  Not that that cruise is bad but shredding a bit more singletrack at a good pace is always nice especially when unexpected.

I had made some slight tweaks to the Y since the maiden voyage at FFD last weekend.  Different 175mm cranks made a HUGE difference.  I would have been dead meat on some of the stuff we were on today with the 180's.  I also changed up how the tension is applied and it works awesome and the chain felt smooth and didn't drop once.  It was also nice to ride the bike at a good pace with good riders to see how it holds up under 'real' riding conditions and I am happy to report that the Y is the real deal.   Probably to the point that I will indeed be dumping some additional funds into this thing at some point and it will probably be around for a bit longer than originally planned.

It is just plain fun to ride, a great addition to the stable.  Very pleased.  And you can't beat the looks in the parking lot.

Still getting used to the small hoops.  Rode up to a stream crossing today and just went to own it and my front wheel got eaten for breakfast and I went down pretty efficiently and got my left foot completely soaked with freezing cold Nov stream water.  I was worried that my day was quickly coming to an end and that my foot had maybe 30mins before turning into a solid block of ice.  Good thing about riding with a group of mostly Elite riders is the constant pace and the resulting heat output.

I had to bail before hitting a bunch more of the classic FOMBA singletrack to head north and buy a new generator and get that squared away but it was a stellar day and a great way to start winding the riding season down.  Skiing tomorrow!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Trek Y. Survey says!?...

Gotta make some slight adjustments and tweaks but this thing is going to be DAMN FUN (except when you have to climb a lot).

Things I took away from today's ride:

- 180mm cranks work great on a 29er, not so much on a FS 26er.  Had some serious issues with pedal strike.  Probably going to have to figure out some alternative if I am going to ride this thing somewhat consistently.  I might have something laying around that could work...

- Rear shock needs more air.  Thought I had the sag dialed in correctly (and maybe I do) but I felt like I was riding a bit low.

- Bike is definitely too small for me, it works but I feel pretty scrunched up.  A longer stem would help, I think I am going to see if my layback seatpost will fit for now to get me a bit more reach.  OR I could throw my thudbuster on there.  Suspension seat post on a full suspension bike?  Go big or go home.

- I definitely noticed the increased maneuverability.  When I converted to 29ers exclusively I jumped right in at the beginning of a season so I didn't have a close comparison period.  Its nice to be able to whip the thing around but I still don't think that outweighs the other 29er benefits and I would still prefer a 29er in almost all riding conditions.

- DMR STS works great. I dropped the chain twice but that was due to it stretching considerably towards the end of the ride.  I think if I take one more link out and readjust things it will be good to go.

The weather was phenomenal.  November this year has been quite kind.  Payback for a foot of snow the last weekend in Oct?  Perfect Fall riding weather.  I'd like to get on snow soon but if it stays like this I'm not going to complain.  Tied Matt for the KOM on Mighty the very least I am hoping I'll get one more try to get bragging rights for the off season on that one.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

URT Single Speed!

Unbelievably Ridiculous Trek?

Something like that. I have to reserve a lot of judgement in this post for now because my only experience on this bike so far is on the stand and standing over it and doing track stands in the shed.  But its complete!  And I like the way it feels right now (other than the fact that suspension feels all wrong to me now)

The setup feels 'solid' and the fit seems like it should at least work for me.  26ers officially feel like clown cars to me now as well which will take some getting used to.  I am really pleased with the DMR STS tensioner so far, again it hasn't been field tested at all yet but it was a snap to install and dial in.  It practically dialed itself in and its adequately smooth and actually pretty quiet as well and the red roller matches the color scheme of the bike which is just a bonus.

I was able to at the very least test how the tension would react as the suspension did its thing and we are good to go.  Unfortunately it is raining tonight otherwise I would have ridden it around the yard.  I am hoping to sneak in a ride at Franklin Falls this weekend to see how everything performs on trail and I'll have a full report on all the pros and cons of my newest creation.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"That's a lot of frame"

AND a spicy meat-a-ball!  Got the Y11 all stripped down and cleaned up last night and daaaaayyyyyyuuuum is it looking good.

mike you will appreciate or hate that I took these pics with HDR, no epic landscape but doesn't that Trek just pop?!

Upon closer inspection everything is indeed in great shape.  No hidden cracks, dings or other show stoppers.  Even the old Judy fork is actually still working quite well and I stripped the decals so unless you look close you might think its a SID race.  And really all that matters when you are riding a bike is that people THINK you are on really expensive weight weenie parts.

After cleaning it up and giving it some thought I have my plan at least for version 1.0 and based on what I've come up with I think it removes the eventual need for a 2.0, I think the end product will actually be pretty awesome and hopefully very rideable.  I will be retiring the Redline for the season and stealing a few parts that are due for replacement anyway.  The cranks/BB/pedals will come over (with a newer/used chainring I found in the shed).  That BB is pretty whupped but will work just fine for this ride.  I'm also stealing the stem because I want to use the old aluminum flat bars from the Redline from before my carbon upgrade and I need the oversize clamp diameter.  I would just use the bars it came with but Naro, in true mid/late 90's form, rode his bars incredibly narrow (PUN INTENDED).

For some reason the rear canti studs and brakes were missing when I got the bike but luckily when you work on bikes long enough you amass tons of random tidbits that you keep in a bin.  Including a few sets of canti studs and heaps of old V-brakes.  Only real thing left was some sort of tensioner.  Designs have evolved quite a bit from when I first converted and I had to do some tech vs. cost balancing.

I was very intrigued by the Yess ETR/V but the price point was just a tad too high and it actually seems a bit overbuilt for what I really need.  But that vid demonstrating how it works with actual current full suspension designs is pretty impressive.  I wanted to stay away from any spring actuated stuff because those never seem to hold up and almost always end in zipties.  So I went with one of the simpler designs that I could find at a pretty reasonable price somewhat locally.

 DMR STS (Simple Tension Seeker)

Slap it on, dial it in and then tighten it down.  Changing rear flats will not be enjoyable but I really don't flat that often (knock on internet wood).  Should have it in about a week and then the bike will be ready to ride for anything I get in before the real snow starts to fly.  Showing up at the Turkey Burner on this thing could be real funny and if/when I do the winter race at Fort Rock this could actually be a good implement for that.  Gina wants to call it 'HoneyBee', thoughts?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Hallows at SMBA

Shot on out to 'toga last weekend for some good 'ole SMBA shredding and some halloween good times.  Got a pretty classic fall ride in on Saturday followed by all kinds of shenanigans Saturday night including winning scariest costume AND several inches of snow.

Got some ok footage using the chest mount.  Last time I tried using it the angle was looking down too much.  I added an additional linkage piece thing (what the hell are those things called?) to bump the camera out a bit so I could tilt it back a bit more to look more forward.  Worked to a certain extent, if I'm sitting the angle is good but standing its still looking a bit more straight down than I would like.  I think you really need the slacker geometry of a freeride or downhill bike for the chest mount to truly work.  But I still got a fun little edit out of it...thank god I remembered to turn the camera on when Keith decided to do some beaver dam maintenance.

Fall Ride at SMBA from Kevin Orlowski on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Old URT Full Suspension Single Speed

I really hope I'm starting a trend here.  Well 'starting' probably isn't the right word but definitely facilitating on a regional scale at the very least.  Full suspension single speed is nothing new but it is being pondered much more heavily lately at least as far as I can tell from my own blog reading and seeing the various new tensioner designs that are coming out.

I was of course drawn to the concept because its in that limbo area of not ideal, why would you build that, doesn't that defeat the purpose, dude are you nuts?!  It's been in the back of my mind for awhile and lately I've been getting the itch for an off season fun build project.  Two years ago was the goofy 96er monster cross which morphed into my now very functional touring bike last year.  So now in a normal cycle I am back to 'goofy'.  A few weeks ago the FS singlespeed idea popped back into my head so I started poking around for ideas.

I stumbled across some folks pondering the use of old URT (Unified Rear Triangle) bikes from the mid 90's or so.  URT was one of the earlier rear suspension designs that has since been completely abandoned for the most part.  Most contemporary designs are far superior with far more pro's and way less con's than URT.  URT has one huge pro for this application however.  URT bikes were sometimes also called 'floating drivetrain' because the bottom bracket was part of the suspension swing arm and would pivot along with everything else.

This keeps the distance between the cranks and the rear hub intact even when the suspension is doing its thing.  No chain lengthening or shortening = SS friendly.  So now I have a concept I like and is definitely a bit goofy now I just have to find a bike...

Queue memory banks and I have a flashback to poking around in the attic space above Naro's parents garage a few years ago looking for bike parts (how appropriate) and coming across a relic from years past that I thought was quite hilarious at the time.  You guessed it, that relic was an old Trek Y11, one of the finest URT frames of it's time.  A quick call to Naro along the lines of "is that thing gonna just sit up there for the rest of time?....if so can I frankenbike that thing and get it back SHREDDING?"...we work a quick barter deal and TA-DA!!!

It is in surprisingly awesome shape considering it is probably pushing 15 years or so.  I'm still trying to decide how much $$ I actually want pour into this thing.  I'm thinking more along the lines of giving this thing some hand me down parts and maybe a few fresh parts here and there.  It would be nice to find some of the old purple/green/pink/ridiculous anodized parts from the mid/late 90's but finding stuff like that will probably be a lot of work.  Maybe it makes sense to whip up a "version 1.0" just to see how it rides and then pimp out a version 2.0 later.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Recap Alert!

Right around this time of year, at least for the last few years I've found myself taking a look back at how the race season went and dropping bombs on weird plans for the coming year.  To date I've tagged sprint triathlons, almost slayed adventure racing only to be derailed by the Universe but the alternative opportunities that presented themselves in AR's absence have been pretty sweet so I'm not complaining.

NEMBA Racing has really come into its own this year and I am pretty motivated to stay heavily involved.  Racing mountain bikes has a whole new aspect to it that makes it even more appealing to focus on now.  I feel like I'm right on the cusp of being pretty fast and with the added motivation and support from a full blown team I think I might be able to make that jump.  I've made continued improvements in my confidence with some of my placings this year and I'm thinking about actually upgrading some of my tech and dropping some weight from the bike for next year to try and give myself some of the advantages everyone else enjoys.  Right now I'm thinking of a nice light carbon fork (I think I'm done with suspension for good) and finally going tubeless with some nice light hoops.

So next year I'll continue to attack the EFTA series looking for yet better results and maybe another top 3 in the overall.  I want a sub 7hr NH100 and I would like to get in a 12 or 24hr now that I can pretty much guarantee I could field a 4 man team without even having to try that hard.  I'm also thinking about making stabs at Singlespeed-a-palooza and I've heard chatter about SSUSA2012 being in VT...might be worth checking out.

I'm also interested in getting some big mile touring rides in next year.  I really liked the challenge and adventure aspect of really big point to point rides.  I'm thinking I'd like to try some sort of multi-day trek I just need to figure out something that makes sense.  I recently found out about these guys,, and I am intrigued by the format.  Only problem now is similar to mountain bike racing 5-6 years ago, I'm the only one I know looking into stuff like this with an appropriate bike ready to go.  I'd settle for a few more big road rides next year, its always fun getting in a few big passes/gaps.

Off season training will be similar to years past, nothing too weird to get ready for tri's or AR just a whole lot of strength training to get ready for skiing and continue to build for next year.  This winter is looking up, already flakes flying as well as whispers of some epic trips in the works.  I'm hoping to increase my number of AT days this year as well as get some ridiculous camera courage with D-Bone and make the stupidest edit ever (pro callout).

It also is appearing like I have to take this blog up a notch.  I have always sort of putzed along but on a recent check of my STATS it appears like I have gotten over 10% of my traffic over the last 5 years in the last month.  (HI EVERYONE!)  Not sure how I take things up a notch, more content? new content? should I buy a domain?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sandown MTB Challenge

More late season MTB racing!  I love it!  This one seemingly came out of nowhere, hadn't been on the radar at all heading into this weekend and while browsing EFTA for TVR results I noticed Maz has posted that he would be at the Sandown MTB Challenge with the EFTA tent...hmmm.

Initially I thought I was out of luck due to my plans to help Naro on his house this weekend but upon further review I realized that Sandown is just a few towns west of Kensington.  I gave Chris a call to see what time he wanted to get going Saturday.  He said he was looking forward to sleeping in a bit and Noon would be fine.  Race is from 9am-11am...SCORE.

Right around now is when I started making some silly assumptions.  For some reason I'm thinking smaller race, partnered with a little festival they probably want it family friendly so the course will probably be pretty mellow.  I then looked at a really inaccurate topo map and convinced myself the race would be flat and fast.  I threw the 18 tooth on figuring I would need it to keep from spinning out.  Wrong on all counts.

Course had some fast sections but it was also fairly technical in spots, nothing crazy but a few tricky spots requiring full attention.  Also a decent amount of punchy climbing as well as a longer gradual fire road climb that had me climbing very sluggishly with the 18.  I had some issues with the punchy stuff as well because my tires were not handling the grease very well and as soon as I would try and get up and get those 1-2 good power strokes to get momentum for the up and over those strokes would just spin out and I would be running.

I got off to an ok start sitting 3rd behind EFTA regulars Andy Gould and Jesse Taylor.  A few of the DG Cycles guys were yelling "Somebody tell that guy to shift!" at me heading up the first little rise.  Eventually Mark Tucker got by me (per usual) never to be seen again until he half lapped me heading back from the second lollipop loop as I was heading in a few laps later.  A short while later Doug Reid came by (another fast EFTA Sport rider, but could prob be Expert)  I was able to hold his wheel through the back half of the first lap until we came to one of those tricky little sections with a blind bridge hidden behind a tree/rock in a little steep section.  I had not pre-ridden and didn't know it was there.  I was probably riding too close and too fast...Doug called the bridge out as he slowed sharply to make the slight turn.  I came in pretty hot and the braking forces were too much and as soon as my already greased up tire touched the bridge it slid out and I rode off the side to crash fairly spectacularly.

Lost Doug's wheel and then hung out about 1-2mins behind him for the rest of the race in 5th.  Things stayed that way for the remainder of the day.  The 18 was wearing on me and I slowed a little each lap and finally cashed it in after completing 5 as I realized going out for 6 would get me nothing more than more mud.  Andy and Mark came through 1st & 2nd a few minutes later finishing their 6th and were both greater men than I heading out for 7.  My 5 laps was good for 5th.

why am I the only one without SOLO written next to my name???
(pic stolen from Mark

 scored some more pics from Mark & family of me lapping through.  Thanks guys!

The race was pretty well organized for the size of the event.  It's a good spot to facilitate a race.  With some more trail work and a bit more mileage I could see this being an EFTA race.  They would need to eliminate the short 'two-way' section of singletrack but that wouldn't be too hard with just a new small trail put in to turn that lollipop into a full blown loop.  The festival was cool; food vendors and local groups were there as well as a little bluegrass trio complete with banjo and fiddle.

I forgot to request dueling time.

 This area of NH is REALLY into scare crows.  Saw tons on the drive in. Quaint and HORRIFYING

We chatted with the promoter a bit after the race.  She puts on one other race and its coming up on, I believe, Dec 10th at Fort Rock called the Cold Crank Challenge.  That's right a winter MTB race at one of the most technical spots in New England.  I'm not sure if she has any info up online yet but I am intrigued and will be sharing as I learn more.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Treasure Valley Rally EFTA NECS #8

The 2011 race season is in the books.  I am simultaneously a little bummed and very pleased with how it ended and simultaneously happy and very sad that it is over.  I can very easily say this was the most fun I have had going through the season.  Our now well established NEMBA Racing team makes race day much more enjoyable.  It is funny now to think back to '06 when I decided to get back into racing, showing up week in and week out by myself, hardly knowing anyone finishing dead last in the SS class a good 30-45mins off the pack...such a sad story.

But now I know just about everyone who races a bike in New England and all that toil is finally starting to pay off.

I can't remember why I haven't done this race the past two years...maybe the usual proximity to the NH100? Last time I did it was '08.  I remember that race fondly because it was a milestone in my racing career.  I had come in third in the NECS the year prior due primarily to just showing up every race.  I was knocking on third again but in order to keep my spot I had to beat someone I had never beaten before.  Long story short, I was able to pull it off.  That was the first time I started to think I actually had a shot at being as fast as the guys blowing me out by 30mins.  Progress was being made, there was hope.

Fast forward 3 years and it is back to the TVR.  I like this course, it is really hard and quite brutal to ride but it combines it all.  You need legs, lungs, and spot on technical riding skills to do well.  I had felt really good coming into this week and I was looking forward to just letting it hang out to see what I could do.  I had almost even planned on not bringing tools/tube to save weight and go 'all in' from the start, luckily I changed my mind.  The start was a little rushed but I think there were something like 10-11 SSers.  I got a decent jump off the line and was sitting about 4th heading into the first section of the course.

I felt strong heading up the first few sections of climbing and heading into the first set of really technical sections I was hitting my lines and really liking my chances.  Then as fate would have it I was railing a turn and there must have been a perfectly shaped sharp rock hidden by some leaves right in the trough I was using as a slightly banked turn.  Usually I am soft enough on the bike to absorb shots like this one but because I was in the middle of a corner things were pretty locked out and there were a lot of forces in play.  All those forces went straight from rock to rim and I knew immediately I was toast.  I was able to ride it a bit longer but it started getting squirelly on me and I had to pull over just past a little rock wall.  There were some other casualties in this area as well.  I watched as all the SSer's and a line of Experts and then Sport riders ride by as I worked on changing my flat.  Shaun came up about halfway through the fix after having some chain issues.

We had a chat about the state of the economy and then got back on the trail.  Initially I was thinking the day had turned into 'just out for a ride'  but eventually I started feeling a little 'randy' and decided I was going to stick to my original plan of hanging it out.  I knew this course was gonna be hard for a lot of people to stick with for the full distance.  It wears on you and if there is one strength I have compared to other riders it is the ability to take a beating.  I was pretty sure if I stayed on the gas I would catch at least one of the guys who passed me so I set to it.

And its a good thing I can take a beating because I got one.  It was fun though.  One of those fun beatings.  I was catching SSer's before long and that just made it more fun.  I caught 2 during the end of the first lap and 2 more during the last lap.  I spotted them almost 10mins and still almost finished where I had been when I flatted.  Looking at results the two I caught on the last lap lapped through 5mins before I did.  Bummed about the flat due to the 'what could have been' aspect but I couldn't be more pleased with how things went.  Finished the race strong and the season strong.


Without that flat I think I would have been 4th by just a few minutes...but who knows.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Making of 'Mighty Chicken: A Tribute'

Almost 3 years ago Scott P., George L., myself and the Tilton School MTB team embarked on the beginnings of a trail project.  A natural ravine at Franklin Falls was begging for more than just the trail shooting down the middle.  Chicken Ravine needed an upgrade...

Our crew spent the morning roughing in what would become Mighty Chicken.  It doesn't quite exist in the same form today as it did that day but its close.  We have probably gone through a few minor tweaks and two more major revisions.  Additional bench cutting, increasing the radius of a few of the turns for better flow and adding a new section on the end for a bit extra tech/excitement.  I am pretty proud of what it has become.  Franklin Falls has been attracting a lot of riders from all over New England lately and usually when bumping into riders in the parking lot they'll be asking how to get to Mighty Chicken.

The word is getting out and I felt it needed some proper documentation and some time in the Internet 'spotlight'.  Plus I've wanted to try making a more planned out edit with the goPro for awhile but have just never had the time.  I got a weird morning time window before an afternoon b-day party yesterday that wasn't long enough for any projects around the house but just about long enough to get an edit filmed.  Or at least I hoped...luckily I was right.

I had a song in mind, and some ideas for shots I wanted in my head but no real concrete plan of attack.  When I got on the scene I started walking the ravine trying to get everything straight in my head about how I wanted to go about this.  Turns out keeping all this stuff straight is actually kind of hard.  No wonder movies need like 500 people on set to spread the work around.  I thought far enough ahead to bring a little notebook so I started drawing rough layouts with notes on where I wanted to get certain shots and then recording which video was which shot so editing would go quicker.

Each turn was numbered and I set up and got shots linearly as I went from top to bottom.  It actually ended up being a pretty good workout because certain shots if I didn't really like the way I rode a section I would stop, dismount and run back up and ride it again trying to go as fast as possible to try and save on parsing and editing time later.

 CUT! ok lets do that again. PLACES EVERYONE! PLACES!

Some of the shots I wanted required some MacGyver'ing.  That's right up my alley so it was no issue.  One bungee cord just about handled any tricky shots I needed.  I used the goPro tripod mount exclusively and was only getting third person shots, nothing on the bike.  Camera was either on the ground on in the trees.


Hey Dad does that tri-pod look familiar?  I believe you rocked that in the 70's with your Nikon.  I think its return on investment is doing fairly well.  Trying to get things lined up was tricky at times.  It is interesting trying to shoot a 'creative edit' without being able to look at anything you are getting until you get home.  I goofed twice getting my finger in my first shot of the trail sign (didn't make the final vid, obviously) and getting the bungee cord in another shot.  That one did make the vid because it was kind of crucial to connect the big sweeping turn 7 into the bottom half of the trail.  Oh well.  Considering I couldn't see any of the shots I was getting and I was rushing some of the setups due to our awesome second surge of mosquitoes thanks to Irene I thought it came out really well.

I got some weird condensation/hazyness in a few of the shots, not really sure why.  The temps were swinging pretty strong.  It was probably 40 when I got started and almost 60 by the time I was done.  Not sure if that was it or not.  Kinda bummed because a few of the shots are lower quality because of it but it does add a weird kind of surreal effect that sort of works I guess.

I'm going to call this a success though.  Decided I was gonna try it Friday morning and I'm posting a finished product Sunday morning that I'm pretty proud of.  Not half bad.  Enjoy.  I'll embed it here but I think its better to watch it at Vimeo with more resolution...just sayin'.

Mighty Chicken: A Tribute from Kevin Orlowski on Vimeo.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bear Brook Hero Ride

Nowadays between primarily leading weekly NEMBA rides and getting together to ride with friends I don't often find myself suiting up for friendly hammerfests.  This year has changed that a bit.  My involvement with NEMBA Racing has gotten me connected with plenty of folks that love to suffer and are hellbent on getting faster.  Not a bad thing but man does it hurt.

Shawn Smith (AKA the Ride Bully) is exceptionally adept at attracting fast riders to his rides and he loves planning BIG days and seeing how the cards (or riders) fall.  I was on the fence about this one because I had some stuff to get done around the house but Saturday I was very efficient and was able to free myself up to tag along.  Unfortunately for me I started scanning the email thread and the roll call was looking like a bunch of fast guys and some even faster guys for good measure (like guys who race Pro/Elite and two Expert Vet I podium finishers at the NH100, 1st and 3rd, fast).  It's been awhile since I've been one of the slow guys in a group ride of 8-10.

But this is good, I feel like I've plateaued a bit lately.  I've been getting stronger every year but I'm at that point where if I want to get any faster I have to find some local heroes and get on their wheels, or try to get on their wheels anyway.  Today was tough, the heat was actually pretty brutal for Sept and the pace was constant, not blistering but always fast.

I got off to a really ridiculous start, ride was almost over before I even made it a mile.  We were cruising along in the equivalent of a neutral rollout (15mph on flatish singletrack) and I was chatting with Steve about how wide his seatstays were on his new SS and then I was on the ground looking back at Carl asking him what the hell just happened.  Turns out I struck my pedal on a stump and my bike stopped dead and I went flying.  Quite hilarious really.  It happened so fast I had no clue, just a loud noise and me airborne.  For reference imagine securing a braided steel cable; one end to your bike and the other end to a 4 ton cement block in the parking lot.  The cable is about 4 tenths of a mile ride away from the parking lot at a brisk pace.  Unfortunately because we hadn't even gotten a mile away from the parking lot my goPro was not on...woe is me.

Banged up my left knee a bit on impact but it was decent for the rest of the ride (stiffening up nice now though).  I think the heat was affecting some of my trail awareness and reaction time because I was having a real issue with pedal strike all day which is usually never an issue.  And my pedals are now totally whupped, they were old as it was but now one of the bearings sounds like a duck quacking when you spin it.

Unfortunately I hit the stop button on my Garmin with one of my appendages while I continued forward and my bike did not so my data got a bit messed up because it took me awhile to notice.  My legs felt pretty good.  Most everything else didn't though thanks to the heat but I've got some good post NH100 fitness going.  Hopefully I can stay strong through the last few races of the year.  I am really looking forward to some 60 degree riding temps after today.  Can't wait for Fall riding.

Made a quick edit with the footage I got.  Tried a new angle but didn't want to mess with it much because I was too busy trying to keep up with those damn speed demons.  I'm not sure how I feel about the new angle.  I like the perspective but it does a hell of a job flattening everything out.  Even the steep techy descents look basically pancake flat.  Kind of a bummer, I was hoping some of the footage was going to look much better, but I like how it came out.  Time to drive some traffic to NEMBA Racing...for the vid go here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

'Bout Damn Time Pumpkin Ale

Been throwing a fall festival at my house for years and never brewed a pumpkin ale.  Not sure what that's about.  Hopefully this batch will make up for things.

Base is a fairly run of the mill Amber Ale.  About 6lbs Amber malt extract and 1lb of Pilsen, 1oz of Cluster hops and 1oz of magic pumpkin powder added at the end of the boil.  There is something about those pumpkin pie flavorings (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc.) that go so well with beer.  The wort smelled so good while I was cooling it I wanted to drink the whole thing.

I also plan on adding a bit more of the pumpkin magic when I transfer it to secondary in a about a week or so.  Shouldn't change the flavor much but it should add a nice pumpkin pie aroma to the finished product.  I'm hoping the result is equal parts:

Sad to see Summer go, but I dig Fall real hard and I have a feeling this year is gonna be a good one.


Homebrewer's lesson #3,973: Be sure to count not only your bottles but also your caps.

I bought a big bag of caps eons ago that I have been using for a long time now.  Long enough that I just got used to them being there and figured they would just never run out.  So I'm just about to start sanitizing all the bottles when I remember I need to throw the caps in the sanitizer as well.  I pull the bag out and do the classic..'uh oh'.  I'm about 10 caps short of what I need, which with the big boy bottles is about 20 beers short.

Luckily I have a few flip top bottles that I could use to supplement but they aren't as big so I still needed to figure something out.  Didn't want to waste too much of the batch so it was scramble time.  Gina got home as I was pondering what to do and came up with a smashing idea:

Beer in Ball Jars...I'm OK with it

They may or may not seal but they have a sporting chance and they'll be guzzled down in about 2 weeks anyway.  And even if they don't really condition at all, beer in Ball jars is perfect for Squamtoberfest.

I tried a bit and I'm pleased.  The pumpkin aspect is subtle but there.  Its a bit more like a Long Trail Harvest than a really pumpkin'y ale like Shipyard's Pumpkinhead.  I think peeps will like it and if they don't I will.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

NH100 2011

 It's Business Time

Another year in the bag!  And another evening of having weird stomach issues and strange body temperature fluctuations while I try and replace the 6,000 calories I just burned up.

I was pretty excited about this year edition.  The race picked up a lot of cred since last year and got itself added to a few Pro Series and it attracted some pretty big time names: Manuel Prado, Tinker Juarez and lots of local hot shots looking to mix it up with the big boys.  Field was quite a bit larger this year as well which is nice to see.

Camping set up was nice and eventually it ended up getting pretty crowded.  Nice little tent city going.  It was a great afternoon to just hang out and mentally prep for the big day.  Lots of lounging by the tent and eating.

a-very niiice, yes?

Got to chat with Maz as he rode around with his 666 number plate.  The man is a character and great to have around the local race scene.  I actually slept fairly decent.  About as good as you could expect to when you forget your sleeping pad.  Luckily I had a big beach blanket to put down.  Up at 5:15 to start getting things situated, loaded up, stashed, dialed, etc.  I went with a fairly hilarious/ingenious(?) method for transporting and delivering my no-cramp pills.  Actually ended up working really well although the first time I went to grab some I dropped two on the ground.  Good thing I knew that was going to happen and brought extras!

and now I'll already have one for when I get REAL old

This year I went without the camelbak and just rode with two bottles and stashed two bottles each in the two drop bins for feeds 3 and 5.  I figured between that and getting water and gatorade at the other feeds I would be fine.  And I was right.  Plenty of fluids and ditching the weight of the pack made a HUGE difference.  I actually was very pleased with how I managed my nutrition this year.  I'm getting pretty familiar with what my body needs and how it reacts and I'm starting to get better and noticing weird feelings early and trying to head them off.  I had a 1hr repeating timer set on my watch to remind me to take pills which worked out well.  I was also telling D-bone when to take his pills which probably sounded funny to anyone riding near us. **beepbeepbeep** Dustin take your pill...OK.

My stomach did eventually turn on me at about mile 53(ish) and I almost puked at the top of a long steep climb.  All of a sudden it went on me and I was leaning over and it almost came up.  I tried to stay quiet a bit and drank and ate much slower and in smaller amounts and luckily it came back around and I was able to finish without bonking.

 off to see the wizard!

the wonderful wizard OF PAIN

The course was in really good shape considering all the precip we got earlier this week.  Weather was actually fairly ideal as well.  Overcast and high 50's low 60's to start and it didn't really start heating up until about the powerlines at mile 25 or so.  For the rest of the day it was just fine in the shade but the direct sun was brutal.  Dustin and I stayed together for a pretty long time, shared the work a bit.  Definitely took your mind off the suffering having a partner in crime.  The actual racing wasn't super eventful.  I took a rock in the shin at one point.  Got kicked up on a descent and got me pretty good.  Decent gash and when I looked down about 10secs after it happened it looked like it had been bleeding for several minutes.  Luckily it got gummed up with mud and crap shortly after and eventually went numb so no big deal.

The SS class started in the last wave with the other 'specialty classes' (clydes, tandem, first timers) which wasn't really ideal but it was kinda nice for the mental game to be catching and passing people all day instead of the other way around.  We were on a really good pace early on (most everyone is) but we caught some high finishing SSers on the powerlines and at one point might have even been top 5 on course.  But those wheels eventually got away on the back half of the course.  Thinking back now I think I made some tactical errors and should have put a bigger emphasis on holding at least one or two of those wheels but we lost one on a pee break (had to happen if not then, later so no big deal) and the other snuck away when we missed a turn and went a tiny bit off course.  Closing gaps in a race like this is risky though.  Even a few hundred yards can require a TON of work and if you go too hard too many times too early that could be it and if your body goes, even 5 mi out from the finish you will lose a lot of time.

Could we have gotten that wheel?  Maybe. Would the effort have been too much and hurt us later?  Hard tellin'.  I'm not too worked up about it, there were a lot of wins today.  Dustin and I had decided to stay together as long as possible and if something eventually happened or if someone bonked and turned into a boat anchor that we would do our own thing.  That 'thing' presented itself as a cramp for Dustin at about mile 52.  I rounded a corner and looked back and he was not in sight, I slowed a bit and eventually I could see him but it was pretty obvious he had lost his punch.  When it goes, it goes not much you can do except wait it out and hope things work themselves out.  I trudged on ahead and was actually feeling quite a bit better than I thought I would at that point.  Then I almost puked (see above) but luckily I was able to get that under wraps.  Still couldn't get much in my stomach but luckily the mileage was ticking off and I didn't have much farther to go.

Cruised through the last feed, got a gatorade and took off for the last 5mi or so.  I gassed it a bit remembering mostly downhill singletrack to the finish.  I remembered wrong, go figure.  There were still a few kicks to the nuts left out there but not quite enough to put the final nail in my coffin.  I had really wanted to get that 7h milestone but it was becoming apparent I wasn't going to make that but 7h15m looked plausible but I was gonna have to hurt a bit.  So I went at it, trying to steal speed whenever and wherever I could get it.  I tried a few times to run/jog the hills but that pretty quickly cramped my calves.  It was coming down to the wire and I knew I was close.  I was gassing it as hard as I could around the final parade lap but my Garmin ticked over 7:15 and I stopped it at 7:16 and change when I crossed (good for 9th out of 12 or 13).  Timers said I got 7:22 but I'm not sure I buy it.  I'm hoping that was the unadjusted time based on when the Pro's started.

 There are still people around!

this about sums it up

Either way my time last year was 7h58m so I'm pretty pumped on the improvement.  Two different bikes though.  Which is harder riding a rigid SS or a rigid geared bike that is 10lbs heavier?  Finishing times seem to solve that one, but I'm sure I'm also stronger this year.  I remembered to hit the lap button at each feed (sort of, a few times I hit it just a bit down the way when I remembered to) and its funny to see the average speeds during certain sections.  The elevation profile tells the story buts its interesting to see just how slow we were going for awhile.  Really fast early, coming down to more normal, and then barely faster than a walk after mile 44 or so until the last 5 miles of singletrack.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Final NH100 Shakedown

One week out and I'm still messing around with gear...uh oh.  Hopefully it won't backfire on me but I don't have much choice.  This weekend ended up being a shakedown of sorts both for my fitness and for my setup.  There have been pluses and minuses with both but I think I'm probably the best prepared I have been for this race in the the 3 years I've done it.

Ive gotten in a really good chunk of miles starting from the last week in July, about 200 in 2 weeks at one point.  This weekend I felt good on the bike but my mix of fitness is different than it was 4-5 weeks ago.  I've lost a bit of my top end and explosiveness and my acceleration feels pretty sluggish on singletrack.  Luckily I don't really need much of that for the 100.  Leg strength feels good and my recovery rate is probably the best its ever been.  This weekend I have been trying to sit and muscle climbs at a slower cadence.  Went better than expected because I prefer to do the opposite.  Being able to stay seated will help on the loose stuff we'll be on and it also helps me stay aerobic.  With my slow twitch fitness I have right now I feel like if I keep my heart regulated and try to just tempo ride I should be able to go for a pretty long time at a constant (hopefully decent) pace. Climbing like that hurts but my legs have been clearing lactic acid really well lately so I'm going to try and go that route.  It feels slower but in the long run I think it will pay off.

Unfortunately I think I'm going to have to ditch my Ergon grips for this race.  I've been having issues keeping them from slipping on my new carbon bars.  I have tightened them down as hard as I am comfortable doing with carbon (and hard enough to blow some threads out of one of the lock rings) and they are still slipping under harder loads.  Can't risk that on those fast washed out descents.  Not excited about changing grips 7 days out after being on them all season but I'll be able to deal with any blisters or hot spots, I might not be able to deal with whatever happens if they spin and I crash.  Not sure what I'm gonna go with, probably at the mercy of local shops inventory because I won't have time to get something shipped.

Gonna drop the rear wheel off this week to get tightened up.  It's still true but a lot of the spokes feel flexy and I don't want to risk taking a hard shot and having several spokes fail all at once.  Other than that the bike is working well.  BB is smooth, brakes are dialed.  Only thing left to figure out is the nutrition plan for this year.  Been having thoughts about racing without the camelbak this year.  I think I can do it, its just a matter of figuring out what to drop at which feed station.  I'd really like to keep that weight off my back if possible.  I've also been trying to think of a way to manage and easily distribute my 'no-cramp' pills during the course of the race.  It came to me on today's ride...

I pill per slot taken once an hour with maybe a few extras in the last slot in case things get ridiculous.  Should stow relatively nice in a jersey pocket.  D-Bone you want me to pick you one up as well?  I got plenty of pills to go around...PILLS ARE GOOOOOOD.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Monocog 'Comfort' Model

The Monocog needed some love pretty bad since Moody Park it also needed some mods to prepare for the NH100 coming up in a few weeks.  This is the first year I'll be trying the 100 on my 'daily racer'.  First go at it was on the Kona in a 9 speed config and last year was the 34lb fully geared Monster Cross.  I'm looking forward to seeing how my body handles such a long hard effort on the SS.  I have been avoiding riding the 100 on a SS because I wasn't sure if I was up to it.  But this season I have been putting up results and pulling off rides that I was not sure I was capable of, so here we go.

So what mods were made to prep for this suffer'fest?

First I dropped off my saddle with Eric from Chainline Cycles to have him reupholster it.  The liner was starting to fray and I was worried the foam was going to start going.  Eric has done a few of his saddles that I have seen and they come out pretty nice.  He, like me, found a model of saddle that is super compatible with his particular grundle and is never looking back so he just relines them over and over.  He uses this synthetic material that they upholster boats with.  Waterproof, durable and you can heat shrink it a bit for a nice snug fit.  And its available in all kinds of colors.  He asked me what I wanted and I said he could pick...mistake?  I'm gonna try and swing by this afternoon to see if it's done.

Next was some general maintenance, namely a full bottom bracket rebuild.  I did a lazy one a while back but this time I went to town.  Pulled everything out, thorough cleaning and regrease and then snugged everything back up.  Happy to report its spinning like new again.  Haven't been able to hop on it yet to see if the creak is gone but I'm 90% sure it will be.

Parts swaps were next.  Re-geared back to 32-19.  For now I'm happy that I'm strong enough for the 18 in just about all scenarios but I definitely prefer to be at a higher cadence than I can manage with the 18 currently.  For now the 19 is still my magic gear.  18 is probably a better choice for the 100 with the fast first 10-15 miles and I would imagine most other SS'ers will be racing that.  I think I would lose much more time walking more of the back half of the course with the 18 than I'll lose spinning out early with the 19.  I also threw the Thud Buster back on.

Hopefully it will Bust some of the Thuds

The only reason I stopped using this post was because of the annoying rattling and clicking sounds it would make.  I was constantly worried my entire drivetrain was about to fall off when riding it.  But I do really like the action on it and it's great in the chattery stuff.  Just enough give to take the sting off but not make you feel all bouncy.  I have some things I'm going to try to alleviate some of the sounds coming from it hopefully they work and I won't spend the whole race looking between my legs trying to figure out what is about to fall off my bike.

Also went with the double bottle config.  Groundbreaking, I know.  But I've been thinking about nutrition for this year and I'm trying to figure out ways to do this without a camel back.  The 100 has offered the ability to drop care packages for yourself that will be trucked to certain rest stops.  I have never taken advantage of them in years past but I'm thinking that might be the way to go to try and keep some weight off my shoulders.  Just seems a bit will also probably depend on the weather that day.  I'll continue to ponder for the next few weeks.
Finished things off with an upgrade.  In an effort to increase the comfort a bit and take away some of that sting that I have come to love so much I got myself a nice carbon bar upgrade.

Easton's EC70 is a nice wide flat bar that was almost the exact same width and sweep as my old bars.  I've read all kinds of reviews that they are great at absorbing vibration, I'm hoping it's true.  They are nice and light too (not that I care that much) but I'm sure I more than gained the weight back with the Thud Buster.  I'm more concerned with smoothing out the trail a bit anyway.

I'll get some pics of the saddle up as soon as I get it back, hopefully in a pink leopard print colorway.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cyclo-Tour to Andro'fest

Kind of strange typing this up so matter of fact now having only really come up with the idea to do this ride maybe a week or two ago.  I've wanted to do a bigger loaded tour like this ever since I started building weird monster cross bikes for that dirt road ride a few years ago.  Most of those weird bikes were never really ideal until this latest build and these kind of rides are difficult to pull off, especially with no experience.

When Joe mentioned this weekend was gonna be this year's Andro'fest and his last weekend on the east coast for awhile I figured attendance was a must.  Trying to ride my bike there almost immediately popped into my head.  Scenario seemed perfect: definitely a long challenging route, and I'd be arriving to tons of people making tons of food, and I'd have a ride home.  Might as well hang a curve ball right in my wheelhouse...c'mon.  I mapped a route out that seemed pretty doable on paper (or on the computer screen as it were) and basically just decided I was doing it before I even checked to see if I had everything I needed or if I could even really load my bike up realistically.  Ask Joe, all he got was a weird email shortly after he told me about it asking if he could give me a ride home and if he had room for a bike.

Luckily I did have all the gear I would need...maybe not the most ideal gear weight and functionality wise but it would definitely due and I made my first attempt at loading the bike up earlier this week and things seemed to work and felt solid.  I took a quick 5mi ride around the house with the tent and sleeping bag loaded on and it seemed just fine.  News Flash: some clothes, tools, food and water add a lot more weight.  When the bike was finally REALLY loaded up for the trip it weighed quite a bit.  I never actually weighed it to avoid the mental anguish of actually knowing what I was hauling but ask Pog he got to try and pick it up still fully loaded right after I arrived.

just before departure 5:30am loaded to the gills

The clearance to the fender on that downtube mounted bottle was pretty nice, 1mm at best.  Hit the road with the sun to ensure I got to work with the maximum amount of daylight if needed.  But I mounted a light just in case I needed more than 15hrs (good god).  It also was nice to have it flashing first thing in the morning.  For the few motorists on the road they probably were not on the look out for a cyclist at that hour on a Saturday.  Got off to a nice easy pace, riding through the morning fog/haze.  Temps were nice for riding, although I did rock a wind vest for the first hour or so.  That vest almost caused the first major mishap of the ride only 20 or so miles in.  I attempted to take the vest off on the bike while riding, something I have done before on many occasions both on this bike and my road problem.  However, unless you are a highly experienced cyclotourist who has loaded bikes many times and is skilled in the art of perfectly balancing your gear when you let go of the bars they will turn.

At least part of my brain was half expecting this so I was able to save things before I went down but it must have looked pretty funny to anyone watching.  Decided to come to a stop and get the vest off safely before continuing.  Besides that incident the early portion of the ride went great.  I was keeping a great pace, much faster than expected and everything felt good.  Great views of Chocorua heading into the Conway area.  I hit some heavier traffic in the N. Conway area as all the early risers tried to be the first ones to the outlets.  I also hit a solid wall of wind that didn't quit for the rest of the ride.  I'm not the best at gauging wind speeds but if I had to guess I think it was easily a sustained 10-15mph with stronger gusts for the final 80mi of the ride.  JOY.  I had been hoping for a nice gentle cruise from N. Conway to the base of Pinkham Notch, instead I got to battle the wind the whole way.

Pinkham Notch was about what I expected.  Never very steep but long and relentless.  Starting at about the turn onto Rt. 16 in Glen to the top is just about 10mi of sustained climbing.  The wind made a few of the slopes feel a bit steeper than they were and I was definitely feeling the additional weight.  But man those views.  It's different on a bike than in a car.  Plenty of time to take it all in when you are climbing at 3-4mph.  Finally made it to Pinkham Notch and my glorious 10 straight miles of descending into Gorham and some lunch.

Got to ride with a guy for a bit heading over the top and descended with him a bit.  Nothing like a friendly conversation at 35mph.  Highlights were his comments about how my friends are pussies for not riding with me and meeting me at the campground instead and asking whether I thought my wide handlebars caught too much wind.  I told him they didn't catch any more than the huge sleeping bag mounted between the drops.  He laughed and then promptly dropped me.

Stopped in Gorham to grab a quick lunch, stretch and replenish my water.  There was a gradual climb into Berlin and once I got past that Rt.16 is fairly remote and hugs the Androscoggin so it stays fairly flat for the rest of the way.  Cell service pretty much ended at that point so most people probably thought I died shortly after Gorham because I went Twitter silent.  The last 40mi or so were basically just a grind.  Lightly rolling terrain that I just tried to tick along.  My speed had normalized to about a 13mph average after Pinkham and that seemed doable so I just kept things right there.  No need to try and push any harder.  I was on schedule with plenty of daylight to use if needed.

I was getting a bit uncomfortable on the bike but honestly I was expecting it to be much worse.  I did my best to stretch on the bike and change my position regularly.  Some of the light rolls in the road past Errol in the last 12mi turned into 'massive climbs' but I have plenty of gears on that bike and I used them all.  Rolled into the campground at almost 10hrs ride time flat.  Immediately spotted the circus tent and b-lined it.  Pog was the first person I spotted who handed me a Coors that had magically exploded/opened itself in his cooler just before my arrival.  Thanks Universe.  Got the tent set up, changed and took a sweet sweet ice bath in the Andro.

Then I fished for bubble gum in a bowl of whipped cream with my face but that is a story for another day...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Riding Smuggler's Notch (on a road bike)

I was hoping to get another bigger road ride in this year after our Gonzo/Kinsman ride earlier this year and Shaun and I decided our Thanxmas planning trip to VT was a good time to put a loop together.  I was looking for some NH100 training miles and Shaun was looking for his first big mileage/gap climb ride.

I randomly spec'd a loop leaving from Jake and Tara's house heading north and east on mostly state routes and then heading back south up and over Smuggler's Notch down to Waterbury and back over to Williston.  Ended up being a great loop just shy of 70 miles.  And I stuck with our now new tradition of accidentally picking a road with a short dirt section without realizing it.

We left early to try and beat the heat.  It was the correct strategy.  Things were quite manageable early and we were more than halfway done before things started to get a bit oppressive.  The climb was perfectly located in almost the exact middle of the loop so we had a nice 20ish mile warmup before the right hand turn onto route 108.  The climb sort of starts right at the turn in Jeffersonville.  Somewhat mild at first and a bit rolly but gets more aggressive as you get closer to the ski resort.  To be honest I thought the climb was going to be harder.  This climb actually was the type that suits me fairly well.  Pitches were decent but nothing too crazy with a few areas where the slope shallowed out a bit so you could recover a tad.  The terrain was really cool.  The actual gap was completely overgrown like a jungle with some exposed rock faces and small waterfalls.  The road is closed in winter and narrows down to about a lane and a half (if that) as youre going up and over.

We stopped at the top for a quick gel and then got to descending.  This is where things got a bit loose.  I did enough recon and research to know there were steep switchbacks on the Stowe side and with the narrow roads you had to be really cautious but I of course wasn't quite sure just how technical it was going to be.  I have done some fast descending in the past but I have never done anything quite like this.  There were several places where I really wanted to be in more control of what I was doing and it just wasn't happening.  Brakes were maxed and starting to chatter and skid a bit.  Very exhilarating.  I made it through the switchback section unscathed, Shaun was not so lucky.

He laid it down in the 3rd or 4th switchback after a few Hail Mary recoveries it finally came undone for him.  All things considered his crash went fairly well.  Bike escaped relatively fine, minus a bunch of pedal scuffing.  And he picked up some rash on his elbow and ass and ripped his brand new race kit.  We're devising ways to appropriately patch them.

Luckily the rest of the ride was a bunch more descending and then just rollers and flats.  So it was mostly a cruise home from that point on.  We traded short pulls a bit on Route 2 so we wouldn't bonk with the headwind and heat.  Struggled up the last little Cat 5 climb right before home and snuck in with a time around 4hrs for the day with an average speed of 17mph.  Not blazing, but decent for the ride that it was with a crash in the middle.  I'm sure Shaun is now ready to start racking up all the major New England climbs.

Next up (pending some testing of gear configurations) is a massive ride up into the nose bleed section of NH and Maine...stay tuned.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Horror at Harding Hill EFTA NECS #7

The Tale of Two Gear Ratios.

In the words of that wicked old knight from Indiana Jones...I chose poorly.  I was feeling strong after our big KT trip last weekend and confident about trying to run a bigger gear this year for this race.  I ran the 32-19 last year and gambled on the 32-18 this time around.

The good news is I am strong enough to push that gear for a long time up some decent climbs in some oppressive heat.  A few years ago I don't think I would be able to say that, so there's a win.  The bad news is I can't push that gear very fast up some decent climbs in some oppressive heat.  Couldn't get the leg speed up and was having a lot of issues generating momentum let alone keeping it.  Course was a lot more chattery than I remember as well which also created some issues maintaining speed for me.  Course and conditions were pretty identical to last year so I was able to pull some decent comparisons of my data from both races.

This year is on the left and last year is on the right.  1st lap times were somewhat comparable but things fall off pretty quickly after that.  I'm bummed I made this goof because I feel much stronger than last year, if anything I think I should have (and would have) been 4 mins faster not 4 mins slower.  Its surprising to me the difference one tooth on that cog can make.  I spent some time looking back at results and comparing things and I'm beginning to think this course and me are not a good match.  Each year it is typically a low spot for me as far as how I compare with my competitors.  This year I was beat handily (15+min) by a rider who I have beaten several times this year.  Oh well, it was a good training ride.  Felt like 2hrs in the gym doing squats non stop.

Things got going with the mass start up a grassy hill...WEEEEEE! I was about mid pack sucking dust from the dry fireroads kicked up by le peloton.  Just like the tour, nervous first lap jitters caused a pile up.  Fairly hilarious...looked just like the tour too.  From my point of view I just saw a bike shoot up in the air and then a bunch of dudes tip over.  Everyone started screaming pile up! and trying to find weird routes around the carnage.  Initially things felt good, gear was good on that first flatter high speed portion of the course.  Then we hit that first doubletrack climb after a sharp right hander.  And I immediately knew I was in trouble.  I got up it just fine but my cadence was too slow and I knew I was in over my head and looking at a long day in the saddle.

Shaun caught me shortly after and we cruised together for about a lap and a half.  There was still one other SSer off that back with us so I decided my new goal was to race that one guy and forget about everything else.  He was good on the climbs but I could pass him in the small techy sections so I figured if I could keep him close enough I could pass him late in the last lap.  Heading into the third lap I was getting a bottle when Shaun came through.  I asked where Shaun thought he was, I was fairly certain he hadn't passed me but Shaun claimed he was about 30secs in front of him.  That was all I had left keeping me going so I took off trying to find him.

Then about 10mins later the guy catches me from behind.  Thanks Shaun!  You'll get better with that whole who am I racing and where are they compared to me stuff next season maybe haha.  I was able to hold him through two more climbs but the one that killed me every lap allowed him to get out of sight and I couldn't claw him back on that descent and that was it.  Last lap was solo just out for a cruise, a really hot horrible cruise.

Came in just under 2hrs and snagged 10th for a few points.  Yippee.  Gonna change gears a bit and start training for the 100 for the next few weeks.